Visions Of Japan: Photographs And Diaries, 1868-1890

September 13 - December 24, 2000
Contact: Jill Osaka, Public Relations Manager, 650-725-4657.

STANFORD, CA AUGUST 2000—Visions of Japan: Photographs and Diaries 1868-1890 showcases approximately 25 hand-tinted albumen prints from Dr. John K. Fong's collection of 19th-century Asian photography. The photographs were taken for the tourist trade and include landscapes, street scenes, and portraits. They are accompanied by observations on Japanese life and customs taken from contemporary diaries and memoirs written by western visitors. The exhibition has been organized by Karen Fraser, graduate student in the history of art, and will be on view in the Lynn Krywick Gibbons Gallery from September 13 through December 24, 2000.

Tourist photography became a flourishing business in Japan during the last decades of the 19th century. During the Edo period (1615-1868), government policy isolated Japan from the outside world. With the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Japan opened up and began a process of rapid modernization.

Both western and Japanese photographers took photographs for the tourist trade. These images present Japan as a exotic land: although the country was undergoing dramatic changes, photographers chose to record traditional activities and scenic views. The accompanying commentaries both confirm and challenge the Orientalist viewpoint and are intended to prompt the viewer to question his or her own image of Japan.

Visitors captured their experiences of the "strangest country in the world" in diaries, memoirs, and letters home. Foreign scientists, teachers, and missionaries were among those invited to Japan to work and help modernize the country. Their writings dominated the 1870s. Other westerners, the "true" tourists, included Japan in their itineraries once travel restrictions eased in the 1880s. Together with written observations, tourist photography provided a glimpse into a country about which westerners knew little.

Karen Fraser will present two Gallery Talks on October 19 at 5:30 pm and November 18 at 2 pm. Both are free and open to the public.

Buddhist Priests

Two Buddhist Priests
Hand-tinted photograph
Lent by Dr. John K. Fong